Emma took him by the arm. “Millard! Are you all right? Say something!”
“I must apologize,” he said. “It seems I’ve gone and gotten myself shot.”
“We have to stop the bleeding!” said Emma. “We’ve got to take him back to shore!”
“Nonsense,” Millard said. “That man will never let you get this close to him again. Turn back now, and we’ll certainly lose Miss Peregrine.”
More shots rang out. I felt a bullet zip past my ear.
“This way!” Emma shouted. “Dive!”
I didn’t know what she meant at first—we were a hundred feet from the end of the wreck—but then I saw what she was running toward. It was the black hole in the hull, the door to the cargo hold.
Bronwyn and I lifted Millard and ran after her. Metal slugs clanged into the hull around us. It sounded like someone kicking a trash can.
“Hold your breath,” I told Millard, and we came to the hold and dove in feet-first.
We pulled ourselves down the ladder a few rungs and hung there. I tried to keep my eyes open but the saltwater stung too much. I could taste Millard’s blood in the water.
Emma handed me the breathing tube, and we passed it among us. I was winded from running, and the single breath it allowed me every few seconds wasn’t enough. My lungs hurt, and I began to feel light-headed.
Someone tugged at my shirt. Come up. I pulled myself slowly up the ladder, and then Bronwyn, Emma and I broke the surface just enough to breathe and talk while Millard stayed safe a few feet below, the tube all to himself.
We spoke in whispers and kept our eyes on the lighthouse.
“We can’t stay here,” Emma said. “Millard will bleed to death.”
“It could take twenty minutes to get him back to shore,” I said. “He could just as easily die on the way.”
“I don’t know what else to do!”
“The lighthouse is close,” Bronwyn said. “We’ll take him there.”
“Then Golan will make us all bleed to death!” I said.
“No, he won’t,” replied Bronwyn.
“Why not? Are you bullet-proof?”
“Maybe,” Bronwyn replied mysteriously, then took a breath and disappeared down the ladder.
“What’s she talking about?” I said.
Emma looked worried. “I haven’t a clue. But whatever it is, she’d better hurry.” I looked down to see what Bronwyn was doing but instead caught a glimpse of Millard on the ladder below us, surrounded by curious flashlight fish. Then I felt the hull vibrate against my feet, and a moment later Bronwyn surfaced holding a rectangular piece of metal about six feet by four, with a riveted round hole in the top. She had wrenched the cargo hold’s door from its hinges.
“And what are you going to do with that?” Emma said.
“Go to the lighthouse,” she replied. Then she stood up and held the door in front of her.
“Wyn, he’ll shoot you!” Emma cried, and then a shot rang out—and caromed right off the door.
“That’s amazing!” I said. “It’s a shield!”
Emma laughed. “Wyn, you’re a genius!”
“Millard can ride my back,” she said. “The rest of you, fall in behind.”
Emma brought Millard out of the water and hung his arms around Bronwyn’s neck. “It’s magnificent down there,” he said. “Emma, why did you never tell me about the angels?”
“The lovely green angels who live just below.” He was shivering, his voice dreamy. “They kindly offered to take me to heaven.”
“No one’s going to heaven just yet,” Emma said, looking worried. “You just hang on to Bronwyn, all right?”
“Very well,” he said vacantly.
Emma stood behind Millard, pressing him into Bronwyn’s back so he wouldn’t slide off. I stood behind Emma, taking up the rear of our strange little conga line, and we began to plod forward across the wreck toward the lighthouse.
We were a big target, and right away Golan began to empty his gun at us. The sound of his bullets bouncing off the door was deafening—but somehow reassuring—but after about a dozen shots he stopped. I wasn’t optimistic enough to think he’d run out of bullets, though.
Reaching the end of the wreck, Bronwyn guided us carefully into open water, always keeping the massive door held out in front of us. Our conga line became a chain of dog-paddlers swimming in a knot behind her. Emma talked to Millard as we paddled, making him answer questions so he wouldn’t drift into unconsciousness.
“Millard! Who’s the prime minister?”
“Winston Churchhill,” he said. “Have you gone daft?”
“What’s the capital of Burma?”
“Lord, I’ve no idea. Rangoon.”
“Good! When’s your birthday?”
“Will you quit shouting and let me bleed in peace!”
It didn’t take long to cross the short distance between the wreck and the lighthouse. As Bronwyn shouldered our shield and climbed onto the rocks, Golan fired a few more shots, and their impact threw her off balance. As we cowered behind her, she wobbled and nearly slipped backward off the rocks, which between her weight and the door’s would’ve crushed us all. Emma planted her hands on the small of Bronwyn’s back and pushed, and finally both Bronwyn and the door tottered forward onto dry land. We scrambled after her in a pack, shivering in the crisp night air.
Fifty yards across at its widest, the lighthouse rocks were technically a tiny island. At the lighthouse’s rusted base were a dozen stone steps leading to an open door, where Golan stood with his pistol aimed squarely in our direction.
I risked a peek through the porthole. He held a small cage in one hand, and inside were two flapping birds mashed so close together I could hardly tell one from the other.
A shot whizzed past and I ducked.
“Come any closer and I’ll shoot them both!” Golan shouted, rattling the cage.
“He’s lying,” I said. “He needs them.”
“You don’t know that,” said Emma. “He’s a madman, after all.”
“Well we can’t just do nothing.”
“Rush him!” Bronwyn said. “He won’t know what to do. But if it’s going to work we’ve got to go NOW!”
And before we had a chance to weigh in, Bronwyn was running toward the lighthouse. We had no choice but to follow—she was carrying our protection, after all—and a moment later bullets were clanging against the door and chipping at the rocks around our feet.